If it's Being Made, It's Being Faked

As an apparel or footwear company, do you struggle to create a brand protection program with teeth? Do you know where to look? Who to believe? What will really work for you?

If so, look no further than the newest and only ISO standard specifically designed to create a framework for custom solutions. ISO 12931 will be your most comprehensive guideline to addressing the key brand protection issues relating to counterfeiting, diversion and fraud as it relates to your company and your products.

Most managers familiar with implementing ISO standards are aware of the somewhat mind-numbing but necessary need to utilize ISO-proven protocols to ensure best practices and avoid any compliance issues. If your objective is to protect your company's bottom-line revenues, brand integrity, ISO 12931 for brand protection is a must.

Until very recently, there was no global brand protection standard that provided a comprehensive plan for dealing with counterfeiting, diversion and fraud as it relates to your company and your products. Enter ISO 12931 "Performance criteria for authentication solutions used to combat counterfeiting of material goods."

In layman's terms, ISO 12931 is the only standard that specifically guides you through the best practices when formulating solutions for brand and product protection. It provides structured approaches (not technology-vendor hype) that help you create custom solutions before having to make any decisions regarding hardware, software, and/or packaging technologies.

Fact: If it's being made, it's being faked
Estimates for 2010 revealed that the "business" of counterfeiting came with a global cost of $600 billion dollars annually. As of January 2015, the estimated losses to business due to counterfeiting will reach $1.7 trillion dollars annually, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
In fiscal year 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seized counterfeit goods valued at more than $1.25 billion at U.S. borders. Since then customs seizures are up 66 percent, according to DHS figures.
Unfortunately, we also know that those numbers represent 2 percent to 4 percent of the total market for counterfeit goods finding their way to the United States. Globally, the trafficking of counterfeit goods is much larger, and growing. That growth is driven in part by consumer demand.
From handbags, jewelry and footwear, to toys, pharmaceuticals, health care supplies and food, it is clear that counterfeiters leave no product category untouched.

In fact, the fakes most of us recognize as fake, the luxury goods, account for just 4 percent of the counterfeit conundrum. That means the remaining 96 percent of the counterfeit problem is comprised of everyday products, such as apparel and footwear. With respect to the apparel industry, the empirical data paints a sobering picture as it relates to counterfeiting and diversion, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce IP Center.

Know what you don't know
With ISO 12931, you will have the framework — specific to your exact needs — for identifying current and future brand protection issues, enabling you to qualify and quantify the solution, strategies and technology elements needed. This eliminates a lot of trial and error. This means you can evaluate decisions based on risk analysis and tolerance, and best practices — not conjecture. You will be able to answer questions such as:
  • What are the counterfeiting issues, and what is the likelihood of that threat?
  • Which of my material goods are being (or have the potential to be) counterfeited?
  • Which locations are experiencing counterfeiting?
  • How are the counterfeits being distributed?
  • What is the extent of the risk?
  • What may be the possible modes of attack?
  • Which areas require protection?
  • What are the potential consequences?
  • What is the most accurate estimate of potential losses?
Your team will have identified the solutions and, if needed, the technology elements required to act on findings from the risk analysis. They will be equipped to facilitate future strategies for success in planned risk mitigation, and you will have the means to evaluate whether a solution complies with established specifications and is providing a measurable result.

Is ISO 12931 a good fit for you?
Answering the following questions will help you determine whether ISO 12931 would be of value to your organization. If you cannot answer the majority of these questions, then you should seriously consider adopting ISO 12931 to bolster your brand protection program.

1. Could ISO 12931 enhance the level of customer trust?
2. Could an audit and/or training in ISO 12931 be used to determine the protection technologies you may need to employ?
3. Could supply chain intelligence from ISO 12931 be useful in eliminating security breaches?
4. Is sourcing a concern? Is there a lack of control on vendor tracking, brand protection, or both?
5. What measures have been taken to address brand protection solutions/purchases?
6. What currently connects brand protection needs with the supply chain, i.e. sourcing data with product ID and tracking with manufacturing?
7. What tracking software or physical documentation, labeling, etc., are you using, if any?
8. How many subcontractors are involved in the final manufacture of the product? Are there any pre-assembled units that make up part of the final product?
9. Are health and safety liability issues a concern, either for sourcing parts or the finished product?
10. What are the current brand protection safeguards for either the final manufactured product or vendor parts?
  • What technology is currently used?
  • Is it used in combination with any other anti-counterfeiting measures?
  • Is it working? To what extent?
  • Is there more that needs to be examined to protect the product and the supply chain?
11. Has a GAP analysis been performed with regard to supply chain or brand protection issues (i.e. evidence-based best practices versus current company practices)? If so, what were the results?

Not fun, but necessary
It is indeed a sobering exercise to attempt to answer the preceding questions with relative accuracy. Only a fraction of brand protection managers have those answers, which is why it is so important to know what you don't know.

While the task of implementation can be mind-numbing, most managers familiar with ISO standards understand their importance for ensuring best practices and avoiding any compliance issues. When your objective is to protect your company's bottom line and brand integrity, ISO 12931 is a must.

Philip Viggiani
Trained in ISO 12931 and ISO 31000, Philip Viggiani is a brand protection specialist assisting companies mitigate risk to their products, brand integrity and ROI. 
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